College Basketball: 2012 Pac-12 Tournament Predictions and Betting Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 3/5/2012
Welcome to the most underrated conference in the country.
For the last two months the national bobblehead media has been condescending and dismissive in their analysis of the Pac-12. No, they didn’t have a great collective nonconference resume. And the metrics have this league rated as the worst BCS basketball conference of the last decade. However, if you’ve actually been watching the basketball being played out west you know that there are some diamonds in the rough playing good ball in this league.
The general bobblehead consensus back in January is that the Pac-12 would only be a one-bid league, with the winner of the conference tournament taking up a bid that may otherwise have been used on some eighth-place team in a better league. However, as the season played out the teams in the Pac-12 have proven – to me, at least – that they are as good as any in the field.
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Is there a national title contender in the Pac-12 this year? No. But I still feel like this league deserves four bids to the Big Dance. And there are several teams that will be heading to Los Angeles on a mission to convince the rest of the basketball-loving world what I already know.
The Pac-12 conference tournament begins Wednesday, March 7 and is being held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Here is Doc’s Sports Pac-12 Tournament predictions:
The Favorite: Washington (+250)
The Huskies won the outright regular season title and have been the most consistent team in the league this season. This squad is 16-4 straight up in its last 20 games and their only losses in league play came on the road against the other top teams in the league. Washington is led by freshman phenom Tony Wroten, who averaged 16.3 points, five rebounds and over three assists per game. His running mate, guard Terrence Ross, give the Huskies the best starting backcourt in the league. Washington has two weaknesses. The first is that they only have three players that average over seven minutes per game and that their seven rotation players could wear down. The second is free throw shooting. Washington is No. 327 in the nation from the stripe, hitting just 61.8 percent.
The Contender: California (+200)
I know that Washington was the regular season champion and the top seed. However, I think few that analyze the Pac-12 would argue that Cal is probably the best-equipped team to make a run in March. The Bears have three talented, experienced players in Allen Crabbe, Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp. This is Kamp and Gutierrez’s last go-round in league play and I’m sure they will be gunning for a banner. But the Bears are small on the interior and bigger, stronger teams can wear them down. They also aren’t playing their best basketball right now, as evidenced by back-to-back losses to close the regular season and a 1-4 mark against the spread in their last five.
The Sleeper: Oregon (+450)
This Oregon team may be peaking at the right time. They are also a bubble team that is trying to stake a claim for an NCAA Tournament bid. I don’t think there is any doubt that this team is one of the best 40 or 50 in the country right now and they deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament field. This is the most experienced team in the Pac-12, with five seniors playing for one last shot at the Big Dance. People forget that Devoe Joseph, the team’s best player, wasn’t eligible until the second semester. The Ducks are 18-6 with him in the lineup and he is has serious breakout potential. Oregon has won four straight and is on a 9-0 ATS rush. If they beat Colorado in Round 2 they could be set up to make a serious run to cut down the nets in L.A.
The Spoiler: UCLA (+350)
It has been a tumultuous season in Westwood. Injuries, suspensions, off-court distractions and shoddy ball handling have plagued this group since Day 1. But UCLA is playing close to home and they seem to have a renewed focus and determination since last week’s scathing “Sports Illustrated” article about the program. UCLA has the best frontcourt in the league. But their hopes this week will rest on the shoulders of an underachieving backcourt. If they can take care of the ball and make a few outside shots this could be a tough team to knock out.
The Matchups (with projected college basketball odds):
No. 8 Washington State (+3.5) vs. No. 9 Oregon State (3 p.m., Wednesday, March 7)
Washington State has already upset Oregon State twice this year. I think it will be awfully tough for Washington State to pull the three-game sweep. The Beavers have one of the most explosive players in the league in Jared Cunningham and they will look to him to lead the way. But this is still a very young team that has shown an aversion to defense. If you kick out two wins over USC – which is barely a Division I team right now – Washington State is just 2-7 dating back to late January. This team doesn’t do anything well but they also don’t usually go down without a fight either.
No. 5 UCLA (-13) vs. No. 12 USC (5:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 7)
As I said, USC really isn’t a D-I team right now. They lost their four best players to injury – on a team that is already short scholarships due to NCAA sanctions – and the Trojans have only won one game since Christmas and just two games since November. This team is terrible and they are barely competitive. UCLA beat them by 19 and 10 in the two meetings and they should be able to lay the wood in this meeting. USC will play hard because this is their National Championship game (they know they aren’t winning anything). But UCLA has twice the talent and almost equal the motivation.
No. 7 Stanford (-10.5) vs. No. 10 Arizona State (8 p.m., Wednesday, March 7)
These two teams are both in letdown spots after huge Sunday wins over their hated rivals. Stanford prevented Cal from earning a share of the regular season title while Arizona State threw a dent into Arizona’s NCAA Tournament chances with a home upset. Who bounces back faster? Stanford has plenty of talent. But they are shaky as hell. It wouldn’t stun me if this team made a run this weekend. And it wouldn’t stun me if an equally unsteady Sun Devils team that has won two games in a row and has revenge for a 24-point road loss this year against the Cardinal bounced them. The winner faces Cal in the next round.
No. 6 Colorado (-14.5) vs. No. 11 Utah (10:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 7)
If Colorado wins they could face a potential NCAA Tournament play-in game against Oregon in the next round. They need to make sure they aren’t looking past a terrible Utah club that is just 1-10 in its last 11 games. Utah was beaten by 46 their last time out and, like USC, they aren’t really a D-I team right now. Utah lost by only seven at home to the Buffs on Feb. 18. But they also lost by 40 in Boulder on Dec. 31. The Buffs are another fringe NCAA Tournament team with a ton to play for here. I think they are playing well enough to avoid the slip-up.
Pac 12 Conference Tournament Predictions:
This tournament is one of the toughest in the nation to predict. Washington and Cal are both good teams and I think that one of them could advance to the finals. I think Washington, UCLA, Cal and Oregon will make it to the semifinals and I think that either UCLA or Oregon will find its way into the championship. I am definitely looking for a surprise winner out of this conference. Cal and Washington are already in the Big Dance and Arizona is pretty secure. But I have said for months that I think that this league was going to get four teams in the NCAA Tournament. If one of the sleepers step up and cut down the nets in L.A. that’s exactly what will happen.
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